Hi everybody. Here are a few posts that take regular, classic youth work games and BLENDS THEM WITH EVEN MORE EPIC! Enjoy.
And for an added bonus:
Hi everybody. Here are a few posts that take regular, classic youth work games and BLENDS THEM WITH EVEN MORE EPIC! Enjoy.
And for an added bonus:
“Ooh! I better go take down the manger scene. If baby Jesus got loose, he could really do some damage.” [Ned Flanders].
Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of damage that Jesus can do? At Christmas we talk about his humble beginnings; coming in a feeding trough rather than a Ferrari Enzo, or – perhaps more traditionally – a chariot.
Even that beginning, however, was dangerous and reckless. Only a small proportion of babies survived childbirth in those days, and those were under the best of conditions. Met with the harsh realities of a back alley birth and an ill-equipped teenage mother however, hygiene was hardly on Jesus’ side.
Jesus then grew up under the scrutiny of a strictly observant Jewish community who were all too aware of his scandalous beginnings. He probably spent much of his childhood looking over His shoulder.
Danger, scandal, fear and struggle were inevitably never far from Jesus’ experience.
The son of a carpenter with rough hands and a keen eye for detail were married into the sinless and acutely spiritually aware character that Jesus developed. Jesus is God, make no mistake, but He is also a man with strength, the heart of a warrior and just the right kind of fierce pride.
Jesus stood and spoke with the authority and command of a leader. Although I’d like to think of Him as the arch-socialist; reaching out first to the unwanted, the weak and the destitute – my conservative friends would probably beat me up. And rightly so.
However, it wasn’t some bullish masculinity that empowered Jesus’ leadership abilities. It was the obvious spiritual connection to His Father, spoken through a seamless command of the scriptures. In the first few chapters of Mark when Jesus is performing miracles and casting out Demons we are told time and again that it wasn’t the miraculous that drew people to Him, but the authority that was carried through the words of His mouth.
With Jesus came the division among families (‘I did not come to bring peace but the sword’), growing displacement (‘foxes have homes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’) and urgency for life (‘let the dead bury their own’). There was always a forward momentum and active motion to the Ministry of Jesus. Even care for the poor (who ‘you will always have with you’) was subtly sidelined in the wake of recognising exactly who He was.
In one breath he encouraged beating swords into ploughshares, but with the next he fashioned the makeshift whip of cords. Such was the paradoxical zeal that He had: both absolute peace for humanity, and right worship of His Father. These, of course, are only a paradox before you are saved.
There is violence to the life of Jesus. Not one that he sows, but one that follows Him around like an ambitious plague. Every way walks he finds ready a gang of insurgents rallying to him as a military leader. Even at his birth, thousands of firstborn sons are culled, in the vain hope that he would be stopped.
His journey to the cross is marred with illness, lack of sleep and beatings. He is abandoned by his family, forsaken by his friends devoured by his enemies. Nailed to the cross for all to see – the true warrior of David, dying a traitor’s death. ‘Why do you strike me’ was the only confused protest that we hear leave his lips.
Jesus’s victory over death and resurrection has a wake behind it. A journey of violence, of political upheaval, of terrorist threats and personal slander.
Only a warrior comes into this world in the reckless way that He did, sinlessly. Only a warrior grows up under the shadow of violence and remains sinless – even under the constant onslaught of the Devil. Only a warrior dies an obscenely unjust and brutal death sinlessly.
The baby Jesus could really do some damage if we let Him out. Living in the wake of the authority of Jesus is the right thing to do today.
Let’s let Him out of His cage this year, yeah?
A wee while back, I was approached to write a couple of articles of Leadanyone.com by it’s founder Joel Preston. The whole site is full of quality articles and I would heartily recommend it to you.
The first of my articles went up online, and you can read it here. It’s a simple set of tools used to evaluate objectively your ministry projects. I hope that it’s helpful!
For a young person social media can be a Crystal Maze of awkwardness and mind games – full of traps and ambushes with a prevailing sense of kill or be killed!
We run training for teachers, youth workers and young people themselves on how to stay safe in social media. Yesterday we shook this this up a bit and asked a bunch of young people what new rules or laws they would add to online behaviour.
This question came from the Youth For Christ, Rock Solid Playing Cards. A great resource available here.
Here are their responses, unchanged and unchallenged. What do you think? Particularly think about what fears these answers reveal and how we could respond to them:
– You should not be allowed to comment on something if you haven’t read or watched it through.
– If you wouldn’t say it to their face in front of a crowd, then don’t comment it on their status.
– Keep your opinions to yourself – no liking or disliking it at all.
– You should only be able to publicly comment on a post with the creator’s permission.
– Fake profiles should always have a ‘this person is fake, don’t trust them’ warning on them.
– When feeling bad, you should be able to ask for help and have people reply properly without trolling or silly jokes – real help.
– All comments should be made by video.
– No comments should be anonymous.
– All ‘offensive’ trolling should be banned.
– You should be able to see who is looking at your photos.
– Can’t tag random people without their permission first – or be allowed to share a photo of them anywhere without their permission first.
– Don’t allow friends to talk to you about social media if you don’t have social media.
– Don’t celebrate something others don’t have (like Christmas) in case it offends them.
– Use your real name .
– Stop correcting people’s English.
– No ALL CAPS!
– Ban all manipulative ‘scroll down to ignore, like or comment if you care’ posts.
– Stop trolling everyone!
– Clamp down on internet slang.
– Ban click bait pages that only make you like them just to give publicity to other pages.
– Limit on what & how much you can share – awful posts should be vetted first.
– Too many selfies!!!
– Don’t allow statuses about an ex .
– Don’t allow statuses about ‘people you know’ without saying their names – especially when it’s obvious!
– Clamp down on the crazy amount of likes people get when they have a baby.
– If you’re not a fan of a thing – don’t go on the page to knock it!
– Don’t allow anyone to change their name to ‘nobody’ – to stop the ‘nobody likes this’ gag.
– Two words: farmville requests
So there they are. Again, think about the fears and questions that these ideas reveal. I recommend asking the same question to your youth group, asking them what they think this reveals and asking how they would respond.
Often completely alien to the compassion and chaos of the youth work world is the cold and competitive rigours of business. The latter is where USP – that’s unique service provision or unique selling point – comes from.
You might believe that business, sales and marketing strategies should have nothing to do with Christ-saturated youth ministry. You may believe that I’m leading you into a callous, sub-biblical and secular world of professionalism. You may also believe that I’ve simply watched too many episodes of The Apprentice – which might possibly be true!
The truth is, however, that you are probably already employing such strategies – albeit under the guise of mission statements, vision casting and prayer meetings. Business uses different language to ask effectively the same question: how can we best steward resources to have the biggest possible effect?
USP is key to this and incredibly important to nail if you want to succeed in youth work.
If you cannot clearly articulate and communicate what it is that your programs uniquely offer to young people that is above all the other trappings of the world, then they have no reason to join you.
If you can’t say loud and proud what makes your offerings so much better than a Friday night on the slosh, or a Sunday morning xbox fest, then it could account for why you only have three people showing up!
Too many youth programs hide their unique services and values under generic activities that are also provided by just about every other competing activity. Live music and entertainment can be gotten from loads of places – it’s called youtube and a sneaky pint.
What is it you do that other potential activities don’t?
– Do you offer a safe and compassionate community where outcasts are welcome and accepted?
– Is it direction on how to connect to the maker of the universe?
– Are you giving opportunities to feed the poor and help the homeless?
– Do you give help becoming a holistic person?
– Are you offering the key to fulfilment found in Jesus?
What is your USP? Find it, nail it, and clearly communicate it!
The USP of one of my groups is a welcome invitation to be part of a family that takes care of each other and seeks truth together. This means my ‘youth group’ works for ages 11-25, and is full of both fun activities and spiritually searching worship and study.
This USP attracts many young people who feel isolated and rejected in their own family, and it attracts those who are interested in philosophy and spirituality more generally. The USP drives what we do each night and helps form the culture of questioning, mentoring and peer-to-peer care outside the meeting times. We’ve seen many young people saved from this group!
If you want to attract spiritually aware, community producing, open-to-Jesus young people – then ‘market’ that as your USP in all of your publicity materials. That niche will be on the lookout and they will come!
Once you have developed and grown those young people, then you can set your sights broader as young people will always attract more young people. Too many of us do that backwards – start with an impossibly broad club that competes with secular groups and then try to niche it down. We overfeed on hype which seemingly works well for a couple of years (without a lot of commitments to Jesus to show for it), then we crash, burn and close down.
Find your USP! Be proud of it. Market to it and develop those who come. Then you can build a broader mission strategy off the back of that community. Winner.
If you’d like to think about how to find your USP, check out an article I wrote for leadanyone.com here. If you’d like personal help developing your USP, understanding how to more clearly articulate it or building a group off it, then get in touch via the training page. Thanks!
In just one local school I have seen four different heads of RE, at least half a dozen changes in senior management and two (about to be three) headteachers – all in the space of five years. This is in no way a unique story.
Many quality teachers are being promoted out of teaching positions and are being lumped with more admin than they have ever had to deal with before. Senior staff positions are under review annually and teachers are surrounded by constant scrutiny. The teaching fabric and staff hierarchies are constantly in flux.
This simply means that authority changes hands constantly, and people who you could rely on at one point may no longer be able to help you.
It is vitally important to cultivate multiple relationships throughout the school. Teachers that you work with today could be running their department by next year. Contrastingly, department heads that valued your services once, could easily be replaced by people who have never met you and have no reason to trust you.
I make a conscious effort to network as broadly as possible within a school. Teachers, librarians, office workers, senior staff and other school visitors are all on my contacts list. I also try to make regular appearances at school events, plays, performances and open days.
As a result I have a working relationship with a wide variety of staff, and I have regular contact with at least 60% of the students of one school every year. The same school I mentioned in my opening line.
Broad school networking relationships: It can be done, and it should at least be attempted.
About three years ago, I was sat in an office telling my Supervisor that I’d love to do a gap year with the local Youth For Christ centre, provided that I only had to do background stuff like admin. Not, under any circumstance, did I want to come into contact with any actual front of house youth work or young person of any sort.
One year later I was wearing a sumo suit while flinging myself at one of said young people in an attempt to knock them out of the circle in a sumo fight to end all sumo fights.
Granted, I’m a young youth worker (only been in the business three years) but I feel I have a bit of authority on the subject of conquering fears, considering that my fear was one of the biggest and most ridiculous fear that can hinder any other youth worker of any age: I was terrified of teenagers.
Now, before you laugh, I think we can all agree that teenagers can be flipping scary. They decide what (and who) is cool this year, half of them think they’re smarter than they are and the other half are smarter than you so don’t even try. They can be scathing and have the ability to make you question every life choice you have ever made with one sarcastic comment.
All that said, those are also the reasons why we love them so much.
Whatever it is, be it young people themselves or something entirely different, every single youth worker in the world has fears, and those fears, no matter how big or small, have the capacity to block us from doing truly amazing work with young people. Here are some of the simple ways I managed to face my fears as a youth worker:
Look at that massive pile of admin you need to do, all those emails you need to send, all those kids waiting to hear the Bible study masterpiece that you’re presenting. How easy would it be if we could just close our eyes and those things would vanish in a puff of smoke?
You can stare at those emails while your heart plummets and mutter “I love emails so much” over and over all you want, but it’s not true. Acting like you love giving bible studies while you’re shaking with fear won’t work either – young people can smell a rat from a mile away.
Just remember when you’re facing these situations that no one important is expecting you to love every aspect of your job. And if your job is upfront youth ministry, no teenager will ever think less of you for being nervous – quite the opposite! If anything, it makes you human, and they’ll appreciate that more than anything.
Be upfront with your colleagues. Be honest about what scares you. Hidden situations only get worse.
Step back. Take a breath. Ask yourself, what will make this situation less terrifying? For me, it was knowing that I had other more experienced youth workers with me, and I could take a few minutes in the back room if it got too much.
This is easier with some things than others. For example, if you need to take breaks between each email to stuff your face with chocolate then do it! Think you might need to call someone up you trust to help you through some admin? Do it!
If you need to ask for help, do it. Needing help doesn’t make you weak. There’s a reason God created more than one human. We’re not meant to go it alone.
My last piece of advice would be, NEVER let the fear stop you. There’s a part of me that still fills with fear when a new young person enters the room and I have to go and welcome them, but I never regret it when I do.
Who wants to look back on their time as a youth worker and see a list of things they never tried, or gave up on too early? The Bible isn’t made up of stories of people who would have but didn’t. It is, however, made up of stories of people who were scared but did it anyway, because God was with them.
And that’s the most important part (surprise). God’s with you. Anything good you do hasn’t actually been done by you anyway. God did it through you. It works the other way too; if you have Jesus at the centre of everything you do as a youth worker, then it won’t matter if you mess up; God meant for that, too. God doesn’t just use our triumphs, he does wonders with our failures too.
Of course, there is so much more to learn about conquering fears, but hopefully you’ll appreciate these little drops of advice.
Now I’m off to go swing a pair of orange-filled tights around my head around for the entertainment of my truly brilliant young people.
When not doing youth work, she is a musical theatre tutor for children aged five to eighteen (keeps her fit!), and has lived in North Wales since she was born, and will continue to live here until they kick her out.
She also plays the saxophone but saves that for parties.
You can find her at any Comic-Con in the country, and her life ambition is to dress in cosplay more than in her regular clothes.